Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back When We Were Foolish

Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to Mark Funkhouser on November 22, the day that I heard he was going to make a run for the Mayor's office:
Thank you for being willing to take on the job. You'll be a great mayor. I don't have access to polls and I haven't talked to the "insiders" (like the ones who were so confident that Wheeler would win), but I can see you coming in first with a plurality in the primary, and riding a populist wave. I think you're going to wake up with a huge job on your hands come March 28th.
From his response:
I like your analysis of the situation a lot. I heard a political insider say I'd finish 7th or 8th and my response was "I'm going to win this thing."
So, I was a couple hundred voters off from him winning the plurality in the primary, but that's not too bad an analysis for an amateur. Meanwhile, the "serious" and "informed" "experts" were providing "analysis" that said things like Funkhouser was a 10:1 long-shot to even make it out of the primary. The "experts" told us things like "Voters won't care about TIF - it's too complex a message," and "You can't win with that name." I cannot count the number of times I had people smarter than me tell me that this was a fool's errand and a waste of time. But when I looked around the campaign committee and saw people like Joe Miller and Jeff Simon and the Wolfs and Ruth Bates - I saw good solid people full of hope, and it was contagious.

Even today, the know-it-alls are insisting they know it all. From Kraske's column this mornning:
Funkhouser, who padded a fairly stodgy persona with his “The Funk” moniker, pulled off a win even though he was outspent 2-1 and operated the most unorthodox campaign I’ve ever covered.

No campaign manager. No phone banks. No fancy high-dollar consultants. No focus groups. No polls. Just a few good folks down at the “doublewide,” as the campaign cleverly referred to its 18th and Summit trailer-turned-campaign headquarters.

And gaudy orange-orange, for gosh sakes, as a trademark campaign color.

On 10 different levels, it shouldn’t have worked. And it may not have worked had not Brooks run such a milquetoast campaign.
The column then goes on to lay out how the brilliant Steve Kraske would have won the race for Brooks.

Yeah, whatever.

My point in writing all this is not to claim I'm a political genius, because I'm not. And it's certainly not to gloat - my respect for Alvin Brooks remains untarnished.

But what I am trying to say is that the emperor/experts aren't wearing any clothes. The "experts" who say that money is everything are wrong. The "experts" who say that endorsements make the difference are wrong. The "experts" who say that "serious" campaigns have self-proclaimed wizards like Pat Gray or Jeff Roe running them are wrong. They are lying to you.

If Funkhouser can win, we can get some Latino representation on the Council, maybe even Rita Valenciano. If Funkhouser can win, Mark Forsythe and Deth Im can win future races.

That's not to say that money, endorsements and experienced campaign consultants won't help. It's not like saving Tinkerbell - merely wishing and clapping won't do it. And even if things go well, there are more losers than winners in Kansas City politics. But it can be done, and don't let the people who are supposed to be smarter than you about these things tell you otherwise.

Every now and then, a naive amateur has more sense than Steve Kraske.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right Dan -- money isn't everything. But that doesn't mean you don't need money to win. Even though Funkhouser got outspent 2-to-1, he still raised and spent a considerable sum of cash.

Contrast that to Mark Forsythe--a good candidate with a good message--who simply didn't raise enough money. He didn't have to raise more than Marcason or Solomon, but he did have to raise enough to get his message out. You don't need the most money or the "best" political professionals, but you do need enough money to compete. One Mark was committed to raising enough cash to win, the other Mark was not. I hope Forsythe has learned that lesson and will apply it to his next race, because he is absolutely qualified to be in public office.

3/28/2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous The NitWit said...

Nope, money isn't everything. But unending gushing from the daily paper sure does help a lot. How many votes do you think Yael's columns were worth? The Star's Funk-fest was worth more than the 1,010 votes that decided the race.

And Kraske's analysis is pretty accurate. Imagine if a more aggressive candidate had run against Funkhouser? Just switching 506 votes would have reversed the election.

This wasn't a mandate, and the outcome probably has a lot more to do with white Northlanders voting against the black guy from the inner city as it does with some coalition of bloggers and grassroots campaigning.

So while the Brookside progressives are busy patting themselves on the back this morning, they'd be foolish to forget that it was Republicans in Platte and Clay County who actually gave Funkhouser the victory.

3/28/2007 10:44 AM  
Anonymous WLB said...

I think you may be reading Kraske's column through a partisan (small p) filter. His point (to me) seems to be that the race was Brooks's to lose. And he cites a number of reasons for that, one of which is money, but mostly puts it down to staging a feckless campaign.

On another note, lighten up for crissakes. Your guy won! ;)

3/28/2007 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forsythe's problems extended beyond money. By most accounts anybody who actually met him knew by far he was the best candidate, but he had no supporting cast. He tried to run the campaign by himself with minimal help. The money thing was probably a symptom of no campaign team to beat the bushes for him.

If Forsythe comes back I hope the lesson he learned is to surround himself with committed and savvy individuals like Funkhouser did.

Maybe some people have taken notice of him and he will be approached by some qualified and aggressive people that will put him over the top. If Forsythe had Gamble's team, or even Im's team it would have been a slaughter in whatever race he chose in my opinion.

Mark if you're reading this, reach out and find some good people. You have too much potential to just disappear.

3/28/2007 11:39 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

I don't live in Missouri and don't really know the candidates, but I can tell you Funkhouser's face was the only one I saw on television prior to the election. TV ads aren't cheap. He must have had some big bucks.

In any event, I hope he's a good Mayor for the sake of the Greater Kansas City Area and wish him well.

3/28/2007 12:56 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Dan, if you really are this nice you just made me feel like a creep for even making a few jokes at your expense.

I can't help but admire and appreciate your optimism.

Awesome post.

3/28/2007 2:43 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Anonymous & Anonymous,

You're both right. I learned a lot in this last campaign. I did try and do too much by myself and fundraising was definitely my weakest attribute.

I have had some people express interest in helping me take "next steps" so we'll see where that leads.

For now I'll spend my summer painting my house, riding my motorcycle a bit too recklessly and planting some trees. Wonderful street trees are a legacy I can leave without getting the most votes!

3/29/2007 10:37 AM  

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